Catch Up Time.

I’m back for a bit. Sorry for the absence from the blog but you know how life is. I have not been at my office desk in weeks which means I’ve been absent from the blogosphere in general (writing-wise), but I’ve been reading and keeping up with blogs. 

It’s Spring here in West Texas and it’s typical Spring weather for here: not for us, the gentle dulcet sound of a sweet breeze across the prairie. No. We have brown sky (from all the dust in the air from the ground cover) and high levels of wind gusts so a day to stay inside and mess around, I think.

I’ve been reading but not a whole ton. I’m immersed in “The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton” (by Kathryn Hughes), a biography of Isabella Beeton, the Victorian domestic expert, and that has been interesting. Alongside that, I’m just about to start a read of James Agee’s “A Death in the Family” but I have no idea what it’s about so we’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed for a good read but either way, it’s off the TBR pile so win-win. 

I’m looking forward to the Beeton bio as I like to read about domesticity stuff every now and then (and pretend I’m that way a lot more than I actually am!) Due to my stomach cancer diagnosis (long story), I haven’t been able to eat much (getting my nutrients from TPN etc.) and I have missed cooking and food in general. Thus, the reading about food helps scratch that itch a bit more. 

Life is good, if a little quiet at times. More time to hit the books and cogitate on their contents! 

Library Loot: June 14 2021

Top to bottom, left to right:

Already read and finished the Stephen King book (ok) and now about to start on the then-scandalous Crawford memoir about the Queen’s childhood (and that of her sister). Ohh la la. (Rather a craze on the royals right now. 🙂 )

Who loves their library? I do.

Happened to pay a visit to the local library the other day, although heaven knows why as I have loads of books at home. It’s that Hunting and Gathering instinct or something. 🙂

Picked up a mix of both NF and F, but mostly NF. From bottom to top, here is what I brought home with me:

  • DK EyeWitness Books: Buildings. (Just love these books.)
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat? The Definitive Rules for Dressing Thin for Every Height, Size and Shape – Leah Feldon (NF – fashion/style?)
  • The Jaguar’s Children – John Vaillant (F) I really enjoyed his book about an Amur Tiger (post to come) and then saw that Vaillant had also published a novel about life in the borderland… We’ll see if his NF talent translates to the F world. (Slightly interesting: Vaillant has two kitty-related books?!)
  • Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner (F)
  • Africa in my Blood: An Autobiographic in Letters: The Early Years – Jane Goodall (NF) about her time in Africa studying the chimpanzees..
  • Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee – Hattie Ellis… about bees…
  • How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer’s Secrets for Making your Clothes Look and Feel Amazing – Alison Freer (NF) – fashion/style.

The Best of 2018

So, in the manner of a lot of book bloggers, I have compiled a list of my “Best of…” titles that I’ve read last year for both fiction and for non-fiction. In the same vein, titles on these lists are not necessarily published in 2018 – this is just when they made their wending way into my grubby little mitts and off the TBR pile (for some of them)…

To the lists:

Fiction Top Five:

Non-Fiction Top Five:

There were some honorable mentions as well, but I’m going to keep it short and sweet. These were my Top Ten Reads of 2018 (for today!) 


The capture from the 2018 FoL Fall Book Sale...

The capture from the 2018 FoL Fall Book Sale…

As tradition holds, I dropped by the annual FoL Book Sale last weekend and caught a few new (to me) titles to add to the TBR. (I know – this is just what it needs, but…. books….)

I ended up mostly in the NF side of the sale, and found these lovelies. It’s interesting that I didn’t go over to the F side, but there you go. I’m into NF these days, and F – I have plenty of those at home. (Except I do also have plenty of NF too, so not sure that reasoning would stand in a court of law. 🙂 Maybe I’ll just stay quiet on that issue!)

To the books (top to bottom in pic):

Bloody Confused – Chuck Culpepper (NF about an American sportswriter who travels to England to try to understand English football… Good reviews.)

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions – Gloria Steinem.  (NF – essays.) Saw Steinem at a talk not long ago, and her fierce character was impressive.

Time and Again – Jack Finney (the only F that slipped through the goalie.) Time travel.

She Got up off the Couch and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana – Haven Kimmel (NF/bio.) I have read her earlier autobio of her childhood and growing up, and remember it as being hilarious. Hopefully, this title continues with that tradition!

Poems and Sketches of E.B. White – White is adorable and lovely and I have loved his essays…

The Promised Land – Nicholas Lemann (NF about the Great Migration of African-Americans post-Emancipation Proclamation).

Across China – Peter Jenkins (NF – travel book.) I’ve read his other two books about his walking journey across America, and I really enjoyed those.

Majesty: Elizabeth and the House of Windsor – Robert Lacey (NF – bio) I like reading about the Royals every now and then… Plus Lacey is interesting and has a dry sense of humor that slips in.

And then some Kindle titles seem to have sneaked in as well (although obvs not related to the book sale!):

All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez – James Patterson. (NF – sports). Woah. Does this belong to me, the person who has never watched a whole football game or followed it? Why, yes. I am curious about Hernandez’ story and how it went awry.

American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land – Monica Hesse. (NF.) Seen plenty of good reviews and I love learning about different parts of America, good and bad.

First Plays – A.A. Milne. (Drama.) I really enjoy reading plays sometimes…

Only Beautiful Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea – John Averard. (NF travel about a country which I find to be very curious).

The Power – Naomi Alderman. (F – spec fiction)

Queen Victoria – Giles Lytton Strachey (NF/bio. I loves me some Queen Victoria sometimes.)

And I also picked up a couple of jigsaw puzzles ready for winter. I’m like a squirrel hoarding all her nuts (except that I actually know where most of the nuts are buried). I read an article the other day about how squirrels bury hundreds of nuts in preparation for cold weather, but then they forget where they buried them! (Aww. Bless. Just like me.)

Thrift Store Bounty…

thriftstorebooksAs I’m of the many who enjoy prowling through thrift shops, I had an hour to spare last weekend, so off I went to one of our local (and biggest) ones. I went with the intention of looking for things to put on Cowboy’s head. Found several objects which will help with the project, and heavens to Betsy, if I didn’t also accidentally on purpose find some books which were looking for a new home.

(Well, I had to buy them, right? Don’t want to be rude…)

So, as can be seen in the photo above, here is what made it home with me:

  • The Iceman Cometh – Eugene O’Neill (play)
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (F)
  • The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery (nature NF)
  • Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat-Zinn (NF on meditation etc.)

I’ve been itching to read a play lately. We went to a local playhouse to see a version of an Agatha Christie murder-mystery, and it was surprisingly good for a local am-dram, and so I ended up with the O’Neill. I read him during my classes in graduate school, so I’m curious to see if if the experience will be similar or whether it will be radically different. I’m a very different person now, so I’m interested to find out how or if this impacts the reading of this play.

The Girl on the Train – loved the movie, so am v interested in reading the book the film was based upon.

The Soul of an Octopus – I rather like octopi and have heard only good things about the nature writing of Montgomery.

And the Jon Kabat-Zinn book is just going to be a good reminder about living a principled life through a Buddhist perspective.

So, I have some good finds there, and am glad that I can add them to the TBR pile, ever-growing as it may be. It’s good to have choices!

April 2017 Reading Review


So April fairly whipped by pretty speedily due to a general busy-ness of life and work. It was a pretty good reading month at the same time, but lower numbers than is traditional. (This would be due to a big mix of things, including my vision still having problems. Reading with one eye tends to slow things down, I’ve found.)

(To clarify: I still have my other eye, but the dodgy one doesn’t see very well a lot of the time. Thus the “one eye” comment. I didn’t mean that I was now Cyclops [although I might feel like that sometimes!]. I had no idea how much my reading would slow down due to this.  :-} )

The reads for April included:

So to the numbers:

Total number of books read in April: 5

Total number of pages read: 1,507 pages (av. 301).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction; 0 play.

Diversity: 0 POC (that’s a bit yikes for me.) 2 books by women.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book, 4 owned books and 0 e-books. (Yeah. Good on working on the TBR pile.)

Plans for May is to read, read, read. How glorious is that?

The FoL Book Haul…


As promised, here is the haul from the Friends of the Library (FoL) book sale the other day:

  • African-American Fiction 2010 – Nikki Giovanni (editor)
  • Famous American Plays of the 1940’s – Henry Hewes (ed) (plays)
  • Lottery – Patricia Wood (F)
  • Travelers’ Tales: A Women’s World – Mary Beth Bond (ed) (Travel NF)
  • Plan B – Jonathon Tropper (F)
  • Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers – Shyam Selvadurai (ed)
  • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – Laurence Gonzales
  • Disease: The Extraordinary Stories Behind History’s Deadliest Killers – Mary Dobson

As to which one will make the cut to be the first choice to read, the jury’s still out but I’m thinking the African-American Fiction collection edited by Nikki Giovanni.

Catching Up…


Well, another weekend slips by the goalie…

It was a good one, though, with a really enjoyable blend of friends and solo time and hanging out in general.

Friday, I took the afternoon off to spend some time at the annual FoL book sale which was really fun. I do this each fall when the group has their biggest sale, and so I just puttered around the basement of the library exploring their shelves and seeing what little gems I could uncover. This year, I spent most of my time looking through the shelves of non-fiction more than fiction (mainly because I had lost my list of book authors (thanks to the new iphone update) and so couldn’t actually remember anyone’s name that I had thought I would be interested in. Sigh.)

So, instead, I roamed around the non-fictions and the short story and drama shelves quite a bit and picked up some interesting titles there. I have a pic for you (along with the list of titles), but that will have to wait for another day. However, I do think it’s a good stack for future reading choices and I’m thinking about which title to start with… Anyway, more to come.

It was a strangely cool weekend for here in Texas (“cool” being quite relative: it was 70’s instead of 90’s) and I even broke out my favorite jumper (sweater) from winter storage. I *adore* cooler temperatures, and so with the falling temperatures happening close to the first day of autumn (last Thursday in the U.S.), this was a big treat for me. More to come, I’m sure…


A friend called up and invited me to see the latest Bridget Jones movies (“Bridget Jones’ Baby”) which was wickedly funny in places, some of which went unacknowledged by most of the West Texas audience (i.e. I was the only one guffawing at some of the English-based jokes), but it was a fun way to spend the afternoon. If you’ve enjoyed the other Bridget Jones movies, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. More of the same, really, except the titular character is a bit older now. (Aren’t we all, I might ask in a rather sage tone of voice.)

We went over to our friends’ house for some tasty veggie lasagna and home-made bread (nom nom nom), and ended up having great conversation for the rest of the evening – one of our favorite ways to spend time, I think. Volunteered at a local triathlon (which is always really good fun although not a big fan of getting up that early really). I used to do marathons and triathlons, and appreciate that most of the logistics are handled by volunteers, so this is one of my ways of giving back to the local community.

And then holding my breath with the upcoming Presidential Debates tonight. I’m all out for Clinton (because how could you be the alternative, really?), and I’m always making sure that my younger college friends know how to register and vote. This election is going to be all about the numbers, more so than other years, and I changed my whole citizenship (from UK to US) just so I could vote, so obvs very important to me. I hope it is to you as well (if you’re in the US), and that you’re helping your young friends get registered and understand the voting process (however you’re choosing to vote).


I’m also getting pretty psyched to think about our upcoming visit to England to see friends and family over there. Trawling around the net (as one does), I came across the info that if you’re a UK citizen* (comme moi), you can ask your local MP (Member of Parliament) for a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament.

As I’ve never actually been there, I thought it would be fun and so contacted my MP who has come through and got us one of these special tours. (My mum is a constituent in his district, so I just hopefully sent his office an email a couple of weeks ago asking for the tour availability.) I have no idea what to expect, but it should be interesting all the same. Other items on the list of things to do in London are hang out with my big bro and his family, go to a play (DH is in charge of that), and then also have dinner with our favorite Uncle Peter and visit the Royal Mews. And no doubt there will be a visit to a bookshop or two. 🙂

And so it’s now back to Monday. Finished up a couple of books over the weekend, so reviews to come. Meanwhile, it’s autumn in West Texas, it’s below 90 degrees outside, and things are fabulous. I hope they are fabulous wherever you happen to live as well.

  • Yes, I know that I just said that I had changed my national citizenship from UK to US, but what that really means is that I added the U.S. citizenship without having to renounce the UK one. (That would have been pretty hard for me to do, even at this point in the game.) Even though the US only recognizes one citizenship at a time (i.e. one can only use one passport at a time), I still get to stay British/English (and in British official circles) at the same time as holding a US passport. Thus, I actually have two passports for the two separate countries, and I’m still a British citizen (in British official eyes). To American officials, I’m only American, but unless I travel down to Houston (where the nearest UK Embassy is) and renounce my citizenship, I get to keep the British one. See? Clear as mud.

General Catch Up Time…


And another Monday rolls around… This week looks a bit busy at work, but I’m planning on keeping strong boundaries between the office and home life so that I can have… you know… a home life. 🙂

disgraced_playThe weekend was fun as we went to a local play by the Hub Theatre Group. Called Disgraced, the play covers a lot of current affairs issues included Islamophobia and the huge question of identity. It was a really good presentation of some very complicated issues and although timely, was not too much in “in your face” to make the point. The director had also arranged for an inter-faith panel for audience discussion after the show which was really interesting. The only sad thing was that the people who I wish could listen to such a conversation weren’t there. However, the points raised were still important so I really enjoyed it.

If you ever get the chance to see this play (or any other local theater production), I recommend going. It’s a great way to support the arts in your local community, and generally speaking, the local actors will be acting their hearts out…


We also saw a different kind of acting (but still acting all the same) when we watched the hilariously bad (as in naughty) Deadpool. (Be warned it’s a bit rough around the edges, humor-wise, but it’s the sort of film like passing a car wreck – you know you shouldn’t be watching but difficult to take your eyes off it all the same. Loads of fast wit flying around (along with expletives), but if you know that going in, you’ll be fine. :-)) Be also warned that you may want to listen to Wham after this movie. (I can neither deny nor confirm that I’m listening to them right now.) Just sayin’.

Oh, and lots of heavy-duty naps. I’d been very very tired for the past few weeks so needed to catch up on some sleep. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.

Reading-wise, I’ve been finishing up some titles although I’ve been rather quiet about them. They’ve still be good reads though.

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt – Nick Hornby (2006)

book386Hornby is a guaranteed good read (if you focus on his Believer columns) and I really enjoy reading his booky writing. He starts off each column with a Books Bought and Books Read column. What’s super impressive is that he actually reads one or two of the books he bought in that same month, a rarity in my life. (Interestingly enough though, this title was one that I bought and then read immediately. Go figure.)

So – if you’re looking for a lovely bookish read from an author who enjoys books as much as you and I do, pick thee up some Hornby. Be prepared for your TBR pile to have some additions though. (Another booky person is also Michael Dirda, but he’s a bit more serious for the most part. He’s also reading some rather hard books (classic-speaking) so not so accessible but seems just as nice.)

March Book III – John Lewis (2016)

book389The final volume of the March trilogy which chronicles Rep. John Lewis’ journey during the early days of Civil Rights, and even if you think you’re pretty familiar with this history, look again as this graphic novel presentation puts a whole spin on things. It’s a fantastic “I was there” look at the whole strange journey (still going on in many ways), and it really demonstrates how hard the civil rights were to get (and then keep). I’m continually astonished at how terrible people will treat each other based on nothing more than skin color, and the fact that we still see it happening today makes me worry for the human race. (It’s not just an American experience, unfortunately, as seen during the recent Brexit palaver, but this graphic novel covered the U.S. events.) There were times when I found myself holding my breath during the reading of some parts, and the many many players in the civil rights era were extraordinarily courageous. I think that if anyone reads this graphic novel trilogy by Lewis, you’ll understand more about the Black Lives Matter movement (whether you are for or against it). Highly recommend it.

(Review on March Volume I  and March Volume II .)

I’m slowly working my way through an interesting (but dense) non-fiction read on America’s contemporary frontier (i.e. the people and places who live out in the middle of nowhere). Living as I do close to the old frontier of the west, it’s fascinating to learn the history of such settlements that do live still in such inhospitable places. So, really interesting but slow-going for some reason. I think I just need to pick this up and put in a few hours of solid reading. I’ve been picking it up and putting it down and I’m not sure that that’s the best way to approach this read. Title: Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America’s Contemporary Frontier (Dayton Duncan) 2000.

And just picked up some fiction about the 1992 LA riots over the Rodney King beating: All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 LA Riots by Ryan Gattis (2015). It’s from lots of different characters’ perspectives (all of whom were involved one way or another) so I expect that they will all interweave as the story progresses. It’s really good so far, and reads like a hot knife through butter. (Or at least it feels that way after the frontier read!)

So – some reading going on. Just not very fast right now.

How’s it going in your life?